What Will He Become?
George Everard, 1881
One day, I noticed two youths looking very attentively at a pictorial handbill. On this paper was the portrait of a little boy, with the words beneath, "What will he become?" and then two rows of countenances giving signs alike of increasing age, but of very different characters. In the one row we can discern advancing intelligence and respectability — but in the other just the reverse. As years advance the man is sinking deeper and deeper in ignorance, vice, and misery.
The placard gave me a text on which I found it easy to say a few words to the lads who were looking at it; and I tried to point out to them how much of their happiness in the future hung upon their use of present opportunities, and upon their avoiding the temptations which on all sides abound.
But the question is a very profitable and suggestive one for us all, and especially for the consideration of parents.
What will he become? You look at a little child in his innocent mirth and lightheartedness, and you think of him as he will be when ten, twenty, or thirty years have passed over his head. What he will be, if spared to old age? What in death? What in the eternal world beyond the grave? What will he become?
Trace the course of two children.
You take one, perhaps in early days who gave promise of much that is good — yet afterwards was drawn away by wicked companions, yielding to some besetting sin; then became a leader in evil, a drunkard, a mocker, an atheist, spreading all around him a pestilential influence of depravity and vice, and at length falling into a hopeless grave, and passing unprepared into the presence of God!
Then, by the side of one like this, take the opposite case. Trace the upward course of the child who has sincerely received the Word of God into his heart. By the grace of God he sees the deadly character of sin, and flees from it. He turns a deaf ear to those who would lead him astray. He has many temptations, but he rises above them. He grows stronger in well-doing with advancing years. He follows in the steps of the Savior, whom he loves. He stands out to all around an example of the blessedness of God's service. He is a blessing in his home, in society, and in the Church. He is as a bright candle in a dark world — as leaven in the midst of the lump — as a grain of salt in the midst of corruption. He leaves behind a memory fragrant with holy associations, and receives from the Master's hand the unfading crown of glory!
What will he become? What will she become? What will be the life and death of the little one whose course has just begun?
How much will this depend, under God, on the teaching and the training given by the parents?
Two parents were speaking of the way in which they had spent their Sunday evening. "I heard an excellent sermon," said one, "on teaching our children the way to Heaven."
"And I was at home doing it," said the other.
Whatever else you forget, never forget to instruct your children in the way of life.
Teach them the nature of SIN — its ingratitude, its folly, its peril. Talk to them about the ten commandments, and the other precepts of Scripture, in the light of daily experience. Remind them, with all gentleness and affection, that "the wages of sin is death," and that the end of the sinner must be eternal ruin.
Then talk to them of the SAVIOR. Tell them that He is the Friend of sinners. Tell them that He is the gentle Shepherd, who carries the lambs in His bosom, and that He will be to them as the mother bird getting her brood beneath her wings, and protecting them from storm and cold.
Impress upon their memories the gracious, the Divine, the true words of the heavenly Father, "I love those who love Me, and those who seek Me early shall find Me."
But more than this; TRAIN your children as well as teach them. Be firm, and yet be gentle. When you say "No," keep to it. Do not yield to pettishness and self-will. Punish all lying and disobedience — yet be loving and kind. Never punish in a passion. Draw, rather than drive. Never speak harsh and bitter words. Make friends of your children, and let home be a happy place.
Then PRAY for your children. Let your frequent intercessions go up to Heaven on behalf of those committed to your care. Lay up a treasury of prayers for them. Pray that God may pour upon them the grace of His Spirit and make them faithful followers of Christ. Especially, pray with them. Let them know that you bear them on your heart before God.
And let your own EXAMPLE be the great teacher. The life of the father and mother ought to be a daily sermon to the children. Let them ever be learning from that which they witness at home, what should be the conduct of a true Christian. Great is the blessing that comes to parents who lead their children in the way in which they should go. Great too is the sorrow to those who leave them to walk in the way of their own sinful hearts.
The late Richard Knill, a most devoted and useful missionary in Russia, returned home to his native village. It so happened that he slept in the chamber where he had slept as a boy. All night long he lay awake thinking of the mercy and goodness of God to him through life. Early in the morning he looked out of a window, and saw a tree in the garden beneath which his mother had prayed with him forty years before. He went out, and on the same spot knelt down and thanked God for a praying mother. Here was the reward of a mother who trained her children in the way to Heaven.
Oh happy house, where, with the hands of prayer,
Parents commit their children to the Friend
Who, with a more than mother's tender care,
Will watch and keep them safely to the end.
Where they are taught to sit at Jesus' feet,
And listen to the words of life and truth,
And learn to lisp His praise in accents sweet,
From early childhood to advancing youth.